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On display at V&A South Kensington
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Abstract Composition

Photograph
ca. 1930 (made)
Artist/Maker

To make this image Moffat placed a dragonfly directly in a photographic enlarger and projected it onto light-sensitive paper. Simple 'camera-less' techniques became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, with the desire to create pattern and explore new sensations of scale and space. Moffat also owned an interior design and decoration business in London from 1929 to 1933, and this image includes perspex and black glass that was on sale.


object details
Category
Object Type
Materials and Techniques
Gelatin-silver print
Brief Description
'Abstract Composition', gelatin silver print by Curtis Moffat (1887-1949), about 1925
Physical Description
Negative image (luminogram, similar to a photogram) of a dragonfly on a black ground.
Dimensions
  • Image height: 36.5cm
  • Image width: 29cm
Marks and Inscriptions
'Curtis Moffat' (Photographer's signature on recto of mount.)
Gallery Label
  • Gallery 100, ‘History of photography’, 2011-2012, label text : Curtis Moffat (1887-1949) Dragonfly About 1925 Simple ‘camera-less’ techniques became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, with the desire to create pattern and explore aspects of scale and space. Man Ray, with whom Moffat worked in the 1920s, was one of the pioneers of this process. To make this image, Moffat placed a dragonfly directly in a photographic enlarger and projected it onto light-sensitive paper. Gelatin silver print Given by Penelope Smail Museum no. E.880-2003 (07 03 2014)
  • Cameraless Photography Curtis Moffat (1887–1949) Abstract Compositions c.1925 Gelatin silver prints 59 36.6 x 28.7 cm 60 37.2 x 29.4 cm 61 36.5 x 29 cm 62 29.1 x 24.5 cm Given by Penelope Smail Museum nos. E.880-2003, E.2555, 2557, 2554-2007 Moffat began experimenting with photogram techniques in collaboration with Man Ray in Paris from 1923. He titled them Abstract Compositions and exhibited them in the showrooms of his London interior design emporium, Curtis Moffat Ltd., seeing them as an element within a decorative scheme. Yet he also described them as ‘painting with light’ and showed them as artworks in their own right. Alongside his use of the photogram, Moffat’s Abstract Compositions employed other cameraless techniques. In one image, an insect’s body – a grasshopper, locust or cricket – is used in place of a photographic negative. In another (p.62), he appears to have painted directly on the paper, perhaps with photographic chemicals.
  • Gallery 100 ‘A History of Photography’, 2014-2015, label text: Curtis Moffatt (1887–1949) ‘Abstract Composition’ About 1925 Moffat’s work included dynamic abstract photographs, innovative colour still lives, and glamorous society portraits. In the early 1920s, he collaborated with the artist Man Ray in Paris, making abstract photograms, or ‘Rayographs’. These were made in the darkroom by placing objects directly on photographic paper to make the exposure. Photograms are unique and no camera or film is involved. Gelatin silver print Given by Penelope Small Museum no. E.2557-2007 (06 03 2014)
Credit line
Given by Penelope Smail
Subject depicted
Summary
To make this image Moffat placed a dragonfly directly in a photographic enlarger and projected it onto light-sensitive paper. Simple 'camera-less' techniques became popular in the 1920s and 1930s, with the desire to create pattern and explore new sensations of scale and space. Moffat also owned an interior design and decoration business in London from 1929 to 1933, and this image includes perspex and black glass that was on sale.
Bibliographic Reference
La Subversion de las imagenes. Surrealismo, fotograffia, cine Paris: Centre Pompidou, 2009. ISBN: 9782844263902.
Collection
Accession Number
E.880-2003

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record createdMay 25, 2004
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